Notes from Yesterday’s FC4 Meeting

As you might have gathered from Jay Levine’s report and the correction in the first comment, the March FC4 meeting took place yesterday at Malcolm X. Ellen (obviously), Rosie, Nicole Smith, and I were there representing HW.

There were four primary orders of business and one ’emergency topic’: 1) a discussion and proposal about how to build on the positive aspects of last week’s discussion among the FC4 Executive Committee, the local FC Presidents, and the district administrators and continue such discussions into the future; 2) the ’emergency’ topic of what, if anything, to say to Jay Levine, who was hoping to get statements from faculty as a follow up to his story on Tuesday night;  3)  a pair of Physics classes up for approval; 4) discussion about and creation of a resolution that Ellen will formally present to the Chancellor and the Board asking them to affirm by Board Rule what Chancellor Hyman claimed explicitly and emphatically, multiple times, according to those present–namely, her support for academic freedom and faculty control over curriculum and teaching issues; and 5) a follow up discussion to the emergency meeting and subsequent faculty surveys and confidence straw poll.

The first issue was resolved by the drafting and passing of a resolution “extending the Executive Committee of FC4 to include the Presidents (or their designee)” and the recommendation that the Presidents meet regularly, including over the summer, with Task Force Reinvention teams and the district administration (at the regular Executive Committee meetings).

Amid that conversation was discussion of whether and how to respond to Mr. Levine’s request for some sort of statement. After relatively brief discussion, consensus favored a member going out and saying something along the lines of, “We’re working on an official response, and when we have it we will share it, first, with our administration, and then with the media. Now is not our time to respond.”

The two courses were passed.

After a long and winding discussion, punctuated by important debates and a few wanderings, and many useful suggestions and edits, a resolution was adopted. I don’t have the final version (or, rather, I don’t trust that the version I wrote down is the actual, final version), so I won’t provide it here. When it is available from Julius Nadas (FC4 Secretary), I will post it here.

Discussion then turned to college by college reports of the survey and confidence straw poll. Faculty participation differed from campus to campus, from 70 at Wright (out of 120) to 50 at Truman to 28 at Kennedy King to 19 (or so) at Harold, etc. Concerns of faculty ran the gamut of the options listed at the meeting (including centralization, non-transparency, surveillance, district hiring, and most of the rest of the list compiled at the meeting). Very low levels of confidence were reported from the faculty at the various campuses who participated. 27 out of 28 at Kennedy King, 50 out of 50 at Truman, and 69 out of 70 at Wright said they did not have confidence in the current administrative team. It’s important to remember that this was not an official no-confidence vote, but the tally does not bode well for the confidence of the crew regarding the direction of the ship.

Suffice to say, the next board meeting and the intervening weeks should be rather interesting for a whole variety of reasons…

Notes from the Honchoi

As you may recollect, the FC4 officers and local FC Presidents met last Thursday with Chancellor Hyman and Board Chair Cabrera, as well as a collection of district administrators who were able to shake free for the meeting.

These are the notes that Rosie took of the conversation at the meeting. They have been reviewed and determined accurate by the other FC people who were in attendance. Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome in the comments.

Personae Dramatis

Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor (C.H.)

Martin Cabrera, Board Chairman (M.C.)

Angela Henderson, Provost (A.H.)

Jim Frankenbach

Ron Scofield, Communications

Jaime Guzman

Katherine Hayes, Communications

Alvin Bisarya (A.B.)

Perry Buckley

Presidents of fc (Hope Essien, Daniel Borzutzky (D.B.), Joy Walker (J.W.), Rashid Carter, Rosie Banks (R.B.), Erick Fuoco (E.F.))

district fc4 officers (Ellen Eason-Montgomery (E.E.), Julius Nadas (J.N.), Paulette Pennington-Jones, Maria Inclan (chair of committee A))

***italics = my edits***

E.E. opened the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and being part of this conversation.

C.H.: Thanks to all of you for adjusting your schedules.

We had every intention of meeting with you before, but we adjusted our schedules to ensure that there were no further delays.

We are open to suggestions to strengthen and expand lines of communication.

The case for change may be hard to swallow, but many community colleges are struggling; we just want to resolve the issue.

We’re all held accountable for student success – not just faculty.

There’s a lot of support that you need that you’re not getting, and we want to provide you with that support.

The focus for all of us should be on learning and teaching, and while you have been focused on that, we are now holding staff and administration’s feet to the fire.

You’ll have the preview of things that I’m putting in place based on suggestions from the faculty and staff development taskforce.

M.C.: He affirmed everything that the Chancellor said.

There are changes that we’re making to improve the institution; major part of that are for the faculty.

There are things that we need to change and correct.

We are open to constructive criticism, and we ourselves are doing things differently as a board to hold ourselves accountable.

J.N.: He provided a preface for J.W.’s coming remarks.

He briefly mentioned Friday’s meeting and discussed our goal of developing a unified list of issues to share by Wednesday, March 23rd, which is our next FC4 meeting.

Even though we are one District, we are seven colleges, and we each have our own individual communities and concerns.

Each college would like to have an opportunity to share our concerns directly.

J.W. (Truman): This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to meet with you. As local faculty council president, I am the first contact for faculty’s frustrations and  concerns. I applaud all of the ideas that have been suggested to improve our institution.

We’re not against change; we have some real communication concerns. There is an atmosphere of fear and being unsettled; our ideas – ideas on both sides? –are misunderstood. For instance, Truman college has worked hard to develop a local brand/logo of their own that is meaningful to the Truman community, so District’s work of unified branding seems to misunderstand the importance of local branding and individual college identity. It is important for people to understand what’s happening.

J.W. related an incident about advertising for a play put on by a faculty.  The advertising – signs and posters – were removed because they did not have the reinvention logo attached per orders of the Chancellor (see Chancellor’s response.)

(E.E.: We are here, and every college has a story to tell.)

Our librarian can’t get her bill for book orders paid because of unnecessary bureaucracy and process.

J.W. discussed the problem of higher math prerequisite, which affects the same students who are unprepared and other frustrating events.

C.H.: When change happens, fear and panic spreads. Changes are happening that have nothing to do with reinvention. If someone is changing the curriculum and no one knows about it, that’s a problem.

She will look into it.

People know her as a person that looks into it and makes people respond. Not everything that is happening is about reinvention; these events at the school (She’s referencing the Truman incident) are the result of some people making decisions that are part of the day to day things that they have to deal with and not part of her orders or at her direction. She doesn’t want people to think that we’re broken up or that one college doesn’t like the other. That’s what she understands the public perception of CCC to be.  She wants them to understand that we are unified and we do have a unified approach.

The Truman incident is absurd and makes no sense.

When incidents of this nature happen, it’s important to tell one of her team members. She promised to identify her team members and their contact information so that we could talk with them directly and report such incidents that seem completely at odds with supporting faculty and student success.

Everything that’s happening is not about reinvention.

We’re focusing on CCC and getting rid of misrepresentations of us in the public eye.  We want to focus on positive events, like the upcoming Centennial. We don’t invest enough on getting positive information out to the public.

IPEDS will track that (I believe she meant track more positive data showing our success, but I’m not actually sure here) with increasing frequency. (Again, I’m not sure what she meant here; I don’t remember. . .)

A.H. meets regularly with faculty.

M.C.: The presidential search is the elephant in the room.

He assured us that there will be faculty input and opportunities to express concerns.  I don’t think that anyone would neglect faculty input.

D.B. (Wright): In his review of his surveys of faculty, shared governance was a major concern, and the upcoming presidential searches had a part in that. There are major concerns with violations of academic freedom particularly as it concerns faculty control of curriculum. Individual departments are feeling as if they are losing control over departmental decisions. .

He discussed his concerns ewrite being imposed on faculty despite protests as a result of studies conducted by Wright and Harold Washington that showed significant misplacement of students to students’ detriment. The imposition of ewrite is, in fact, contrary to the reinvention goals and to the quest for increasing student success.

He discussed concerns that faculty are being policed, that there is increasing surveillance and monitoring of our activities, and that our credentials are being reviewed  despite the fact that we were already reviewed and vetted at the time of hire.

We as faculty need real support.

Since there has been a change in the board rules regarding the presidential search; we would like to know that faculty will be involved in the process. . .

C.H.: I believe in academic freedom and removing a lot of bureaucracy and rules and regulations that prevent faculty from working effectively and efficiently.

How do I give you more autonomy?

How do I allow academic affairs to operate as effectively as our four year universities?  (I’m actually not quite sure what this question was about; I don’t remember the actual question.)

When students are not learning, when the provost and the presidents don’t perform, when the IBHE (?), I have to make some administrative decisions.

There will be a recommendation committee just as there was one for Harold Washington college.

(R.B. (a question I didn’t ask): what are the relevant changes (board rule change) that would remove faculty input?)

We all have to be reviewed for accountability for student success.  Hence the job description for presidents needs to be changed. . .

We have an obligation to ensure that we reviewed the best possibilities.   The presidents are at the will of the chancellor. The hardest decision of the leader is to remove the personal and stick to the professional. We have done an adequate search for HW president (?).

M.C.: The Chancellor has to stick out her neck everyday, so board members have to be committed and accountable for student success.  He discussed a recent board resolution that calls for the board members to be accountable for student success and the difficulties in obtaining that resolution.

We hope that the presidents re-apply.

He discussed the importance  of streamlining processes, being fiscally responsible,  understanding that each graduation was important, and looking at the costs –

There are folks that want to recognize and celebrate the achievements of all of our students.

at the end of the day – savings – graduation at Wright  (I’m not sure where he was going with this; I believe it was that at the end of the day, we have to look at savings and at ensuring that all colleges are treated equally in terms of attendance at graduation, but I’m not sure.  See below after my comments.)

R.B.: Since I wasn’t taking notes while speaking, this is all paraphrased.

I discussed the importance of faculty input during presidential searches by mentioning my participation in the HW search and the ability I then had to affirm that the process was above-board and fair with faculty.

It seems as if we’re on the same page in terms of concerns about misrepresentation of faculty and institutional quality; the problem/concern might be one of tactics: how do we go about creating a more positive image.  Faculty may have different ideas of how to go about doing that than District.  I mentioned that the CCC stars project was an example of one way of emphasizing positive activities. I also mentioned the importance of reviewing our accreditation self-studies and reports from peers since they were positive.

I requested that on the promised contact list, we not only have the list of her team members, but also some discussion/mention of when it is appropriate to contact our local administration versus district.  There is a process of communication in place, and I should not have to call A.H. all the time for curriculum issues.  That’s why we have deans and vice-presidents and presidents.

I discussed the importance of trust-building in communication since actions speak louder than words and communication without trust-building is just talk.

On that note, I mentioned some incidents when trust-building was called into question for me and other faculty.  I shared that I learned about ewrite being imposed on faculty over the summer when most faculty are away on vacation or studying or whatever.  If they were interested in faculty input and building trust, decisions of this kind should be made when faculty are present and able to be part of the decision-making process.  I also discussed in this vein the announcement of the graduation date.  Faculty plan their courses and lessons long before a semester starts; announcing during the semester that their final exams need to be moved does not speak well to support for student success and student learning and obviously doesn’t speak well at all to a desire to build trust with faculty.  Timing is an issue.

I reviewed the major concerns from HW faculty: shared governance, centralization, misrepresentation, and hiring issues.  Since the others had been discussed to some degree, I discussed the hiring issues, especially the lack of hiring of full-time faculty despite our need for faculty (I reviewed the need for speech faculty at HW and Maria affirmed for another college).  I asked if there is a hiring freeze on full-time faculty, which is what I understood to be the case.

M.C.: He had to go to the college presidents’ meeting, but he wanted to correct my misunderstanding of the reason for one graduation ceremony.

The unified graduation ceremony was about bringing people together, not about cutting costs.  It was about unity.

C.H.: No one is trying to take away individual college identity;  we don’t want to be a system that fights coming together; we want students to see one another; she wants the public to see our unity; every school may keep its identity.

She noted that when she first arrived, she had to choose which graduation to attend since she couldn’t attend each one.  When she made her choice, people asked why is the chancellor favoring one over the other. . .She reaffirmed that the unified graduation ceremony was about coming together,  not cutting costs, not about being fiscally responsible. . .

As for timing, when is the right time?

She also needed to go to the same meeting as M.C., but she wanted to reaffirm that she will put together a contact list of her team members, etc.  She really wants to continue this communication and to address all of our concerns.  We should send our concerns to E.E. as well as our (fc presidents, I believe) suggestions for when and how when and how this communication should take place and with whom?

She affirmed that faculty know best about curriculum and academic issues and that she wanted us to be clear about faculty vs administration roles and responsibilities.  When we talk about shared governance, make sure it’s really shared. . .

On that note, she discussed that there was a difference between academics and back office functions (faculty vs. administration).  We have to teach, and the money saved in centralizing back office functions is invested back into the students.  For examples, she discussed the updated Microsoft  office suite and the updating of Blackboard and Peoplesoft.  She also discussed projects to increase targeted advisor to student caseload.

The Chancellor gave us a preview of ideas presented to her to support faculty.

Faculty and staff development task force will fill in the details, but tenure process and what should be focused on, i.e. encouraging student centered activities in place of the arbitrary graduate course work, streamlining the portfolio to make it more about teaching and learning, increasing observations (peer);we are looking at the

We are also looking at the post-tenure process, i.e. offering more opportunities for reflections/reward and recognizing exceptional faculty beyond a letter from the Chancellor; personal success (??)

We are exploring improved faculty development programming – catalog for professional development opportunities for faculty

We encourage shared governance; we want centers for teaching and learning at each campus.  We want to provide opportunities for growth for faculty in their individual fields and disciplines.

We want to encourage a faculty hiring process with greater autonomy and less bureaucracy

tool where all of you can (??)

We want to develop virtual computer labs – (open cloud computing centers ??).

We want to support students for adult education by providing better advising processes for them.

We want to develop virtual classrooms

E.F. (Daley): Please provide some development opportunities for administrators because some aren’t good managers/micromanagers.  They do not know how  to communicate with faculty.  Can we do some training for them?

C.H.: She agreed with Eric’s idea and request.  Sometimes, it’s a case of the right people in the wrong chair.

A.H.: Ewrite has been a  3- 5 year conversation; it’s not a reinvention conversation.  She said that ewrite is designed to provide an optimal environment with faster turn around in reading placement exams.  She said that she spoke with deans/vice-presidents/faculty leaders before this replacement of  faculty readers.  She said that this was a pilot, not a mandate.

D.B.: This “pilot” doesn’t seem to take into account both Wright’s and HW’s studies that demonstrate the high percentage of misplacements caused by ewrite scoring. The solution has made the situation worse

R.B.: I pointed out that communication is an issue here as well since it was never communicated to me that it was a pilot, and it makes a big difference to understand the imposition as a pilot rather than a done deal.

A.H.: She affirmed that by pilot we can review both long-term and short-term solutions to the problem of having human vs. computer readers.  She pointed out that other colleges (such as Daley) have been using ewrite with no problems.

R.B.: Is there or is there not a hiring freeze?

C.H.: There is no hiring freeze on full-time faculty.

A.H.: There is no hiring freeze on full-time faculty; schools may be making local decisions based on budgetary needs.  We have no mechanism for exploring district-wide departmental loss-replacement processes, and we need a universal mechanism.

A.B.: We also need to consider hiring cycles based on disciplinary needs.  Perhaps some disciplines don’t need as many full-time faculty. Perhaps some disciplines would benefit from more adjunct faculty.  Research shows that high adjunct/ft ratios do not have an adverse effect on student learning as many suppose.

C.H.: She wanted to explain zero-based budgeting.  She explained it and said that it increases accountability in budgeting.  In a meeting with the Civic Federation, she explained that ZBB starts budgeting at zero, and then every line item is justified thereafter.  The Civic Federation approved the move and encouraged us (jokingly) to train the state on it since it shows accountability.

She identified her takeaways: CCC culture as a whole must work on positive representations of the institution; We must be mindful of the language that we use, especially this continuing use of “us vs them”; we need to be mindful of our language; we will have disagreements among ourselves, but we are all a part of this institution; since the board, staff, administration are communicating, we must prove the naysayers wrong and improve our communication mechanisms to be more inclusive of faculty.  We (fc presidents) should send suggestions to E.E. within a week – by the 23rd so that we can actually keep our communication lines open.

Addendum (or stuff I forgot and/or that simply needs to be added)

•   There were questions about why D.B. did not report these concerns about ewrite to the remediation taskforce especially since he is a taskforce member.  He has since presented information to the effect that he had given these studies to the remediation taskforce in January.  I also can affirm that the remediation taskforce is well aware of the inaccuracy of ewrite.

•   Additional notes/corrections from Daniel Borzutzky (D.B.)

•   Regarding Joy’s discussion of the Truman College posters, [Daniel Borzutzky] found an email from Wright College President, Chuck Guengerich, from October 29, 2010, that states the following:

“To be consistent with the new direction of the District, please discontinue the use of the Wright College logo in any form and replace it with the CCC logo.  Also, all publications, flyers etc.  must receive approval from the Office of Public Relations before duplication and distribution.”

•   One more thing – the point [Daniel Borzutzky] was trying to make about e-Write and the reinvention goals is the following;  One of the goals of the Reinvention is to get students out of Developmental classes as quickly as possible, but e-Write does the opposite b/c it often places credit-level students in developmental courses.

•   On the e-Write discussion – there were studies conducted by Truman, Wright and Harold Washington and we all found that we disagreed with e-Write more than we agreed with it.

•   On the shared governance issue, this is how [one person present] understood her position:  I’ll leave faculty alone to take care of academic/curricular issues and you leave me alone to take care of administrative (hiring presidents, etc..) and budgetary issues. This is also how I understood her position.

Notes from the Reinvention Forum

Rather than type up a word for word, blow by blow account of yesterday’s (seemingly successful) Faculty Forum on the Reinvention, I’m going to summarize and synthesize the major ideas for any of you who couldn’t make it for one reason or another. We had a pretty good turnout (somewhere around 25 faculty with representation from all of the departments, I think, along with most of Faculty Council, President Metoyer and VP Hader) and found out some interesting things.

#1) After presenting to us, and getting the feedback she got, it seems that the Chancellor and her team went into revision mode and have been thinking about the need to change a few things (asking faculty to leave their classrooms was one example mentioned of something that was being re-thought). It was said that they also realized that the pitch did not include some things (and that faculty had not been informed very well) about a number of things in which they were likely to be interested (data sources, data reports, comparison groups, etc.). So, after presenting to us, the Chancellor and her team went back to work on the presentation and, for the time being, canceled their pitch at the other campuses. At the same time, it sounded like at least some of the general structures (task forces, areas of inquiry, etc.) were likely to remain the same. Which brings me to #2.

#2) The Chancellor is coming back; she is tentatively scheduled to return to present to Faculty Council and Department Chairs on or around October 1st with the new, revised plan, and she will be meeting with Faculty Council’s (and Chair’s? Not sure) at the other colleges, too. So it looks like she is planning to operate, somewhat at least, through the Faculty Council structure. More on that when we know more.

#3) Tom Higgins raised a question about “Unification” and plans to be a single college, and both Johns said that, if that ever was a plan, talk of it has ceased, at least with the Presidents. In fact, Hader said, he was with Angela Henderson and the head of ICCB last week and heard Angela say (something like), “We are seven independently accredited colleges, and we want to stay that way.” He said that she made clear that the talk of consolidation applies to the “business” aspects of the college related to services. Metoyer said that the Chancellor’s point with respect to the “single transcript” idea has either been clarified or evolved to the idea that a Daley College student who works downtown ought to be able to come into Harold Washington and order/get printed out her Daley transcript (i.e., that the aim was not so much to get everything on one document, but to make the services of the City Colleges of Chicago universal). At least that’s how I understood his understanding on that particular topic.

There was then extensive discussion of the Jobs focus, with Metoyer and Hader noting that some of it is a consequence of our Chancellor’s personal perspective (that people come to college for jobs) and some of it, a lot of it, coming from external pressures including Federal Government and funding related entities of all sorts “who want to see numbers.” Faculty then posed questions or suggested issues that they’d like to have clarification about as we move forward toward the process that the Chancellor laid out in her presentation. Among those were:

~Clarification of what it means to Succeed at the City Colleges (and presumably revision from the way the term was defined for the purposes of Reinvention;

~The role of faculty in curriculum decisions with respect to standardization across the colleges and decision making (e.g., mandatory use of e-write);

~Addressing (or at least acknowledging) the aspect of student responsibility and motivation with respect to our success with our students, as well as considering ways to get students educated and involved in the pursuit of the Reinvention goals;

~Identifying who has responsibility for and how they plan to capture data on jobs and job placement;

~Closing the hole in our knowledge about the students who leave (and transfer) without degrees, perhaps by doing follow-up surveys of random samples, etc.;

~Concern about the temptation/attempt to try to quantify the human experience and/or learning;

~Assurance of continued support for established and soon to be established partnerships with various groups and entities.

There were a few others, too, but I missed them (sorry–I know I missed more than one as I was writing); I hope someone who was there who heard one I didn’t include will add it/them in the comments below. Amanda, who did a great job hosting the thing, I think, then asked everyone to remember to fill out the tear-off part on the bottom of the meeting agenda if they were interested, at this point, in participating in the process in any way, so we can organize ourselves here at HW and develop some plans for sharing, seeking, and contributing information to the process through and from the participants in it (she made the same request at today’s State of the College Address). Once those have come in and we have a better sense of the “new plan,” FC will discuss how to go forward.That discussion will likely take up part or most of our October meeting (second Tuesday in October, 3:30pm in room 1046), and you can continue to watch the Lounge for more information as well.

All in all, it was an encouraging session–it’s good to know that the Chancellor takes feedback seriously; it’s good to know that so many HW faculty are committed enough to their work and the place to be both concerned about and willing to participate in conversations and work related to Strategic Planning for the institution’s future; and it’s good to know that we can expect our current administration, as we expected from our last one, to be honest, forthright, and supportive of faculty, our concerns, and our role in the process as we go forward.  As rough as this whole thing started out (going all the way back to the DWFDW hootenanny in May) after the forum, I am a little more optimistic about the path ahead.